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Rock Solid Performance Amid Cutthroat Competition

By Karla Brandau

"A gem is not polished without rubbing, nor a person perfected without trials." —Chinese Proverb

High heat plus intense pressure turns carbon into diamond. I know, you thought diamonds were rocks you wear on your fingers. However, I'm sure God put diamonds on the earth to do work — not just to cement relationships — because diamond is the hardest material on the earth. Diamond is 4 times harder than the next hardest substance, corundum from which rubies and sapphires are mined. On the Knoop hardness scale for minerals, corundum rates 400 and diamond a whopping 1600! Diamond tip saw blades can cut through almost anything.

Diamond is a derivative of the element carbon. So is graphite, but diamond and graphite have very opposite properties. Even though they share the same chemistry, graphite is soft (the "lead" of a pencil), and diamond is hard. Unfortunately, the "high heat" to perform plus the "intense pressure" of deadlines usually turns employees into graphite instead of diamond. Why? Because of poor focus, emotional intelligence, and stress skills.

What if you could take the intense pressure and the high heat of our economic environment and mold a resilient diamond team instead of letting stress turn your employees into soft graphite? What we are looking for is rock solid performance amid cutthroat competition. Competition used to be relatively friendly, but in today's world, competition is aggressive.

Let's look at some of the physical properties of diamond that can help your employees withstand the pressures of the cutthroat world economy while giving rock solid work performances. The physical properties that made diamond the ultimate example of rock solid work performance are:

  • Hardness: As mentioned above, diamond is a perfect "10" in hardness, defining the top of the hardness scale. Your employees need "hardness" in order not to fracture and break from the economic pressures faced in most organizations worldwide. This hardness or hardiness comes from a belief in their inner powers to triumph in hard times. It comes from a determination to succeed and a commitment to find new, innovative answers to nagging problems and stumbling blocks.

    By valuing and respecting each employee you can increase their self-esteem and their "hardness" in the face of adversity.

  • Clarity: Diamond is more transparent than any other solid or liquid substance - nothing else even comes close. The current economic times demand transparency in leadership with clarity on what the organization stands for, where the organization is going, and whether or not the organization is keeping its commitments. Translated to you as a leader, transparency enhances the credibility and trustworthiness of your unit, department, division, etc. thus providing stability in the organization and integrity with your customers.

    As you become more transparent, transparency will steadily permeate throughout the employees you manage. Honest dialog that clarifies questions and gives straightforward answers in non-combative ways will become the norm, thus facilitating productivity and thrusting you and your people forward.

  • Thermal Conductivity: Diamond conducts heat better than anything - five times better than the second best element, Silver! In physics, thermal conductivity is the property of a material that indicates its ability to conduct heat. For this article, the "heat" that we want to conduct is positive energy and belief in the future.

    As your employees become "harder" or "hardy" and as transparency seeps through the ranks, I challenge you to add "thermal conductivity" to your arsenal of leadership tools. Become a conductor of positive energy, transferring optimism and encouragement to everyone you interface with in any given day. You'll witness doom and gloom transforming into solid growth strategies.

  • Melting Point: Diamond has the highest melting point at 6416 degrees Fahrenheit. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone in your organization had as high a melting point as a diamond? If it were so, employees would maintain their cool and composure in tough discussions. "Meltdowns" would be few and far between, reserved for extremely important issues. During any given day, most meltdowns between employees are over somewhat trivial matters.

    By teaching emotional intelligence, stress principles, and communication techniques, you can help your employees replace "meltdowns" with dialog. Conflict becomes a catalyst for change as differences in opinion are explored with an eye toward making organizational products and services better.

  • Summary: Apply these diamond properties to your work environment and employees who may be diamonds in the rough will be cut to shine with exquisite brilliance giving you an edge in global cutthroat competition.

Individual Rock Solid Performance
Rock solid performances in organizations by individuals take concentrated effort and the ability to remain focused in a disruptive workplace. Some of the elements that disrupt the workplace are:

  • Ambiguity. Often as a worker, you may see an uncertain future.
  • Loss of face-to-face contact. Thanks to the Internet, you interface more and more with people you have not met and may never meet. In a strange way, this loss of face-to-face time brings alienation and a feeling of being alone.
  • Unfamiliar territory. Because of the Internet and unprecedented globalization, you are often in unfamiliar terrain as you work with a melting pot of lifestyles. You encounter unfamiliar cultures, races, and religions and which causes you to question how to proceed.
  • Stretched every day. Not only do you have to stretch to understand new cultures, but you have to stretch you mind with new concepts, new software packages, new marketing techniques, and new ways to stay competitive every day. In today's world little stays the same week in and week out.
  • New coworkers. In all of the reorganizations taking place in corporate America, you will undoubtedly have new coworkers. Some may be less capable or less cooperative. Others may be a welcome change and a breath of fresh air.

In addition to the above factors that cause disruption in your work environment, you may feel you are being squeezed by work demands and the need to maintain a semblance of a personal life.

Here are 10 tips to help you be resilient and deliver rock solid performances every day:

  1. Overcome bitterness
  2. Refuse to act like a victim
  3. Control what can be controlled
  4. Let go of what cannot be controlled
  5. Look for the challenge
  6. Learn from the process
  7. Turn conflicts into growth opportunities
  8. Turn disruptive changes into new directions
  9. Recommit to the end results
  10. Be resilient and diamond tough
Karla Brandau, Certified Speaking Professional, is a workplace consultant and an expert in leadership and professional development. She works with organizations who want to be competitive in the 21st century global marketplace. Contact Karla at 770-923-0883 for a free consultation or to check the availability of dates to bring Karla to your organization.
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